Topic 3

Topic 3: Building A Professional Online Identity

Through exploring multiple online identities in Topic 2, it’s clear that an increasing number of web users are choosing to portray both personal and professional facets of their identities online. But why is building a professional online identity important? The video below provides some insight.

Figure 1. Social Recruitment Statistics (self-produced with statistics from Jobvite, 2014)

Marketing Yourself

With such changes in the way employers approach recruitment, it makes sense for individuals to mirror this approach in terms of their careers, and that’s where personal branding comes in (Nyman, 2014a). In the same way that marketers promote brands, individuals can promote themselves to potential employers (Weiss, 2013). This idea of ‘personal branding’ can be explored through professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. By taking on a digital resident role and actively managing your online presence, you can network with industry professionals, explore career opportunities and increase your visibility to potential employers (Carruthers, 2012). Whilst I’m no LinkedIn expert, I have acquired some useful tips on how to build a successful profile, as outlined below.

Figure 2. LinkedIn Tips (self-produced with information from Nyman, 2014b)

Achieving Authenticity

There’s a fine line between marketing yourself and putting employers off, and that’s where authenticity comes in. Authenticity is about being original and genuine, which are traits that people value both offline and online (Winstead, 2015). As the phrase goes, “people hire people”, so showing a bit of personality through your online presence can go a long way to securing a job role. Whilst creating an authentic profile is easier said than done, a good start is to share your values, passions and goals in an honest and open manner. This can be achieved through blogging or an online portfolio, both of which demonstrate creativity, enthusiasm and dedication (TheEmployable, 2014).

The Key to Consistency

Consumers prefer brands that are consistent, and the same applies to online users that experience your personal brand (Noble, 2013). To build a consistent online presence, I suggest using a similar tone of voice across platforms and, where possible, the same name, username and profile photo (James, 2015). Consistency can also be achieved through an about.me page, which pulls together all of your online profiles to reinforce a coherent online identity. It’s also a good idea to ensure that your true values and the values you present online are consistent. After all, you are what you share, post, like and tweet (take note, Justin Saco!).

Authenticity and consistency interlink
Figure 3. Authenticity and consistency are interlinked (self-produced using Canva)

Whilst there are numerous ways to approach building a professional online identity, I’ve noticed three emerging themes: Market yourself, remain authentic and be consistent. In the current digital world, your professional online presence could make or break an opportunity, so be sure to consider it thoughtfully and carefully.

(418 words)

References

Carruthers, R. (2012). Managing your digital footprint. Career Destinations, University of Southampton.

James (2015). Maintaining a consistent brand identity across social platforms. LCN.

Jobvite (2014). Social Recruiting Survey 2014.

Noble, J. T. (2013). Truth will out – why authenticity is the key to growing your business. Kissmetrics Blog.

Nyman, N. (2014a). I’ll tweet you my job spec if you snap me your CV. Web Science MOOC.

Nyman, N. (2014b). Let’s get LinkedIn. Neil’s Recruitment.

Ronson, J. (2015). How one stupid tweet blew up Justin Saco’s life. The New York Times Magazine.

Tapscott, D. (2014). Five ways talent management must change. World Economic Forum.

TheEmployable (2014). How blogging can get you a job. TheEmployable.

Weiss, M. (2013). Job hunting: How to promote yourself online. BBC News.

Winstead, R. (2015). Being yourself: The importance of authenticity in online marketing. Business 2 Community.

Figure References

Figure 1: Self-produced using PowToon and information from Jobvite (2014).

Figure 2: Self-produced using Google Slides and information from Nyman (2014b).

Figure 3: Self-produced using Canva and this image.

Featured image

11 thoughts on “Topic 3: Building A Professional Online Identity

  1. Hi Patricia,

    Thanks for the great post as always. I love the way you’ve brought in digital ‘residents’ and online identities and applied them to the professional sphere. Your three tips are easy to remember and effective in boosting a professional profile.

    Tapscott (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/10/don-tapscott-talent-management-millennials/) says that we should move from hiring to relationships built over time. How do you see this fitting in with authenticity? You mention “people hire people”, are relationships online one way in which to get across your personality? All of this is a lot of effort, even in the long term when we’re not activity job-seeking. What do you think should be our trade off here?

    Secondly, you mention the importance of consistency, which I totally agree with. However, could you not argue that consistency is an important part of branding? I would also add here that the brand should continue offline, for example on your CV and cover letter. Maybe this wouldn’t be as explicit as online, but tone and voice of text should be similar, expressing some of your personality. For example, I use a QR code on my business cards that links to my CV online, just a little way to tie face to face meetings with my online presence.

    Thanks again for an interesting read!

    Mark.

    Like

    1. Hi Mark,

      Thank you for your positive comments on my blog!

      I do agree with Tapscott’s view that recruitment should be less of a one-sided hiring process and more of a two-sided process of building relationships. I found an article that delves deeper into the importance of relationships as a core aspect of talent management. The author also links the process of building relationships to authenticity, stating that a key way to start building relationships is to simply ‘be human’. But as you say, relationships require time and effort. I think a good way to approach this would be to take some steps towards building a relationship, be this through a message on LinkedIn, a tweet to an employer or by simply following a company or making a new connection. Online interactions do not have to be loud and constant, which could be argued as inauthentic, but just enough to keep a relationship going. Offline relationships can be maintained without frequent interactions, so the same could be said for online relationships. Thus, I believe there is a balance between being a passive web user and an active web user, in which relationships can be built and maintained without a great deal of effort.

      With regards to your second point, I very much agree that consistency is a key aspect of branding. Whilst I emphasised the importance of being consistent across online platforms, this consistency is redundant if it does not continue into offline domains, such as in a CV or cover letter. I think the idea of a QR code on a business card is an excellent way to link offline and online professional identities. I guess this could be taken a step further with the addition of a QR code on a CV. For example, LinkedIn allows you to add media to your bullet-pointed list of experiences to provide further evidence of your contribution. In the same way, a QR code could be used on a CV as a link to online content that supports what is being said. Do you think this is something we could be seeing more of in the future?

      Thanks,
      Patricia

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Patricia,

        Many thanks for your detailed reply! This is certainly proving to be a thought-provoking area.

        It’s interesting how you bring in the maintenance of relationships, which is interesting both offline and online, professional and social. You mention how this can be done without the need for big shouting self-promotion, which I agree with. However, do you think that it’s possible to create relationships online in the same way? Or are offline relationships simply more genuine? (and then the web is used as a tool to keep these going as you mention) The idea of a balance between being passive (and thus achieving nothing) and active (in which you risk becoming annoying or ignored) is especially helpful here, thank you.

        With regards to the consistency point, thank you for your kind words about my QR code idea. I definitely think this kind of thing will become more widespread in the future. I’d even argue that the physical CV will probably change form into something different. Although, there is a privacy element to this. I’m happy to share my CV quite widely, but it does have some details I don’t want everyone to know. In that way, I see my LinkedIn profile as a subset of my CV. As I talk about in my post (https://mac2g14.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/professional-online-profiles-how-can-we-get-it-right/), it’s important to differentiate yourself in the job market, and I see these approaches as a great way to do that. How do you seek to differentiate yourself?

        Thanks again,
        Mark.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi Mark,

          I’m glad that the passive/active distinction helped your understanding. I think this can also be related back to digital visitors/residents and the way different users engage with the web. I do agree with your point that offline and online relationships are undoubtedly different, and perhaps the nature of online relationships does not lend itself to authenticity or easy maintenence.

          It’s interesting to hear your views about CVs and I’m curious to see what direction this might take in the future. I’ve recently seen the emergence of video CVs, which is something I’ve not really thought much about. This article outlines some tips for creating a video CV – what are your views on this?

          The section in your post about differentiating yourself was helpful in getting me to think about my own ‘unique selling point’. Whilst I am seeking to pursue a career in marketing, my degree is in psychology, and I think this has allowed me to develop a greater understanding of some of the psychological aspects of marketing. Furthermore, I recently started maintaing a personal lifestyle blog, through which I have explored different aspects of content creation, web design and digital marketing. I am now looking to enhance my ‘personal brand’, perhaps through the creation of an identifiable banner or logo design, which I can apply to all my online profiles.

          Thanks again,
          Patricia

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hi Patricia,

            Thanks for the continued enlightening discussion!

            It’s true that the Web doesn’t lend itself to being authentic. As we’ve said before, it’s easy to put on different ‘masks’ online. Therefore, do you feel that a feature of these platforms going forward should be the ability to add credibility and authenticity in some way to your profile? For example, endorsements or some kind of third party certifications (i.e. the University of Southampton could endorse my degree on LinkedIn and it would show as verified).

            Interesting that you talk about video CVs. The case the sticks in my mind is Adam and his billboard (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/01/03/adam-pacitti-jobseeker_n_2400798.html) in which he rented a billboard and created a video CV. Needless to say, it went viral and worked (you might want to take note if you want to go into marketing 🙂 ). Therefore, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. Although, I’d argue that he was so successful because it was novel. If everyone was doing that then it would not be effective. Would you use a video CV?

            I’m glad you found my post somewhat helpful. I realised some time ago that success is when you can bring something new to someone. Therefore, being able to differentiate yourself in some way is vital. Running a blog (provides evidence of skills and being a ‘self-starter’) is a great way to do that. As well as applying your degree in a novel way, which you are doing. That is something that in Web Science is required, as people rarely know what it is! A personal brand is also brilliant in being professional in how you come across, and crucial I’d imagine in marketing! Also, do you feel like you are learning new skills by taking on these tasks to do with your own profile?

            I’d love to hear how you get on with your job search!

            Thanks again,
            Mark.

            Like

            1. Hi Mark,

              Thank you too for the continued discussion! Your questions and ideas have really encouraged me to think further into this topic.

              That’s an interesting point. I do think that because professional online profiles are becoming more and more crucial within the job world, there will be an increased need and desire to demonstrate credibility. Endorsements are a good idea, much like the ‘verified’ tick on Twitter, but as is the case with a lot of these issues, there are pros and cons.

              Adam’s approach was certainly bold and impactful. Whilst I can’t quite see the billboard idea catching on, I think it makes an excellent point about how we need to consider ways to differentiate ourselves and stand out from the crowd. Personally, I’m not sure whether I would consider a video CV at this current time. I think I’m more suited to a expressing myself with words and other visual materials, such as in blog-form, and I’d feel a bit self-conscious about putting myself out there in video-form. Having said this, I think that some people are very suited to expressing themselves verbally and physically, and a video CV would be a great way to showcase this. Perhaps I might test the waters with a voiceover video or a video of myself in this module, we’ll see!

              So far, I feel I have improved my online ‘self-promotion’ skills and also my awareness of the issues surrounding online identities. Through managing my online profiles, both personal and professional, I have learned a great deal about myself, what my skills are and what makes me unique.

              What would you say are the key learning points you’ve taken from this topic?

              Thanks again,
              Patricia

              Like

  2. Hi Patricia,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed this post! I could feel the detail and effort you put into your slideshow and I found it very informative, engaging and succinct. In turn, it has inspired me to improve my current LinkedIn profile, to get it to the ‘All-Star’ profile strength. I would agree with most of the points you mention, especially on the notion of ‘personal branding’ where as individuals we should use our social media effectively to promote ourselves.

    On that note, you mention that there are other ways to achieve authenticity, for example through blogging. However, do you think blogging only helps those who are in the creative industry? If I was to pursue a career in banking yet my blog was on gym fitness/sports, how relevant and consistent is this to promoting myself to my prospective employers?

    Furthermore, I tweeted this article the other day which I found interesting https://www.theguardian.com/money/2011/aug/19/rules-social-recruiting-linkedin-twitter-facebook . It mentions that employers can be suspicious of those who are ‘trying too hard’ to get noticed. In what ways, do you think people can prevent from coming across like this?

    Carolina

    Like

    1. Hi Carolina,

      Thank you for your kind comments on my blog. I’m glad you found my slideshow engaging and informative and I’m looking forward to seeing the changes on your LinkedIn profile.

      That’s an interesting question and something I hadn’t really thought about. With regards to blogging, I think the key benefits can be applied to different individuals within different industries. As you say, blogging doesn’t have to be writing about things relevant to your career/industry, it can also be about hobbies/interests. Whilst blogging may be more relevant and useful to those in creative industries during the ‘experience’ parts of applications, it can still be a great talking point in the ‘extra-curricular’ and ‘personal interests’ parts of applications for those in more technical industries. Whether a blog is about fitness, travel, fashion or sports, it’s a creative and consistent way to show your personality and gives employers an insight into what makes you tick. This article goes into more depth about this and even suggests that blogs can be used as CVs. What are your views on this?

      The article you shared makes some very interesting and useful points. As I mentioned to Mark earlier, I think a distinction can be made here between being a passive web user and an active web user, much like digital visitors and residents. Getting the balance between passive and active allows you to have a voice without running the risk of putting potential employers off. I think a good way to reduce this risk is to be authentic about what you share and the ways you communicate. Being mindful about who views your profile and the image you portray is important and can help individuals from getting too caught up in self-promotion. Can you think of any further strategies to help with this?

      Thanks again,
      Patricia

      Like

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